As you move through each section of a ritual you are creating layer upon layer of replications of the elements and energies of the natural world and then taking each of these replications and refining their energetic representation as the ritual progresses. This is what is often called “rising on the planes”. You are, essentially raising your own energetic vibration and all that you have brought into ritual space with you as you move closer towards connecting with the Universal flow of the Gods and Goddesses.
The format I have used below is what our Tradition uses as a basic ritual protocol. You can certainly add or subtract as you wish based on the type of ritual you are planning. This is meant to serve as a generic template and as you become more familiar with creating sacred space and ritual work the more you personalize it the more resonance will occur between yourself and the intent.
* Preparation and Set-up
Even before the ritual begins, the energetic tone and mood of the intended space and the participants should be shifting towards one of focus upon the work at hand. The steps that are taken in preparing the actual ritual space and the getting into the “head space” are equally as important as what actually occurs in the ritual. In fact, these steps of preparation can serve to enhance or weaken the energy of the space and the results of the working.
As you set –up the working space, such as central altar, any other things you wish to have present, etc. hold in mind what the intent of the ritual is. Hold in your mind the care and careful planning and organizing that is going into making the ritual successful and meaningful. Take your time and lovingly and with care place each item where it is to be within the ritual space as you inwardly establish a connection to everything that has been placed. One of the most important, although at times overlooked pieces of this process is a clearing away of clutter and general cleanliness of the area you are going to use. Your space does not need to be large and grandiose, but it should be clean and uncluttered, as a statement that this space will be used for important and extra-ordinary work and as such should present in a suitable manner to receive the energies of the Gods and elements.
Your personal preparation can take many forms. Carefully and with intent putting on your ritual robe or other garment set aside only for use in sacred space, placing a special amulet about your neck, or if time allows, taking a shower and envisioning all of the day’s worries, cares and mundane energy washing away from you in preparation for magickal work are some of the things you may wish to try.
Bottom Line– it’s all about getting your mind, body, emotions and Spirit readied to connect with the energies you will be using.
* Grounding and Purification
Grounding: The process of grounding before ritual implies that you will be activating the channel of connection that is already present within us. This is the connection of our physical being to earth and our Spiritual Self to the heavens above. As we move through our daily activities, that connection often is unfelt and pushed aside to accommodate all the other things that draw our attention. When we take the time to ground ourselves before entering sacred space, it is a physical cue to our minds that we are now opening ourselves to what the Universe may hold and that for this temporary span of time the onslaught of mental and mundane chatter is going to be put on hold. See the sample below for a grounding meditation that we often use prior to our coven rituals:
Stand with your feet placed firmly and directly underneath your hip bones with knees slightly bent and relaxed. Your spine is elongated and your shoulders are relaxed with your head resting gently on top. Bring your awareness to the rhythm of your breath; the filling of your lungs and the gentle exhale. Each exhalation releases another bit of tension from the day’s activities. These fall about you like droplets of water and ay that need to be picked up again will be there for you after your magickal work is completed.
As you continue to breathe, imagine a line of energy connecting you to the ground beneath the floor on which you are standing. Each breath in draws the grounding energy from the Great Mother up into your being. This energy of life moves progressively upwards, moving through your feet into the lower legs, up into the pelvic region, up into the belly, up into the heart center- the throat and finally passing up and through the crown chakra. As you continue to draw this energy upwards, it extends towards the sky above. Imagine that you are like the branches of a tree, extending and reaching heavenward in the great expanse of the sky.
You feel wholly and completely connected to the grounding of the earth and the limitless expanse of sky above. Breathe in this energy and breathe out a cascading flow of energy that sustains, connects and prepares you as you enter sacred space.
~ So Mote It Be ~
Purification: The idea of purification in association with sacred space is one of aligning one’s energies with the four alchemical elements with which we will work. It is also a “marking” of the physical vehicle-that of our body- that we are using to connect with those energies. The use of the term “purification” in a Wiccan sense is not to imply that we are less than or need to be made clean and holy. It is, however a call to that “pure” state of being that is inherent within. That place of innocence and great wisdom, the negative and the positive working in an integrated state of balance and the complete and unquestionable gnosis that we are part of the greater whole of Divinity.
Purification may take the form of incense or a smudging stick (Air and Fire) and salt infused water (Water and Earth) or a special Oil blend, which depending on the ingredients can be a cohesive union of each of the Four alchemical elements in one. The materials for purification are often placed at the corner of the space that will be used for the celebration or working.
The next step is that of creating sacred space by Casting the Circle and calling the energies of the quarter elements into their respective locations in the ritual space. A compass comes in handy when determining where the cardinal directions are located in the space to be used. Determine and mark the locations of East, South, West and North. Often, small altars are set up in each of the spaces with items selected that align with the energy of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Check out the supplemental posts for:
Scribing the sphere of art defines the space that will be the vessel for the working, and
Calling the quarter energies brings in the refined dynamics and energies of those four basic elements.
* Statement of Intent
The statement of intent gives voice to what the focus of the ritual and its intended outcomes are. The importance of this component is that it is a declaration made and witnessed by those seen and unseen (Deity and Energies of the Elements). With that in mind, be mindful of what you declare, what you are asking for and what you offer in return.
Sample Statement for a Beltane Ritual….
At this season of heat, passion and the union of the male and female polarities we celebrate the fertility of the season. We celebrate the passions within ourselves that long to find their compliment and we offer the promise of maintaining and nurturing that heat within that is the unified Divine Spark that connects us to the God and Goddess. May their union be blessed and fruitful as is ours.
~ So Mote it be~
The act of invocation is one of inviting Deity to be present. To invoke is to call to one’s self the specific energies that are desired. This is a process that contains the emphasis that what you are calling resides outside of you (versus Evocation, which draws upon those energies and dynamics of archetype that are within your own state of consciousness). To invoke is an invitation to a particular Deity or Deities to be present, to witness and to potentially offer assistance in whatever the predetermined focus of the ritual may be. For example, for our Lammas ritual we invoke the Goddess as the Great Mother from whose bounty we reap the harvest. We invoke the God as the Great Horned God, protector of the animals and natural world and guardian of the bounty the harvest provides.
At Brighid (Imbolc) we invoke Brighid, Goddess of the Triple Flame, healer and bringer of light and life. And we invoke the God as Lugh, spear of fire, and the forger of our Will.
If no specific God or Goddess is needed, the charges below serve to call the energies of God and Goddess in their many forms. Specifically, the Charge of the Goddess is often used during Esbat rituals, as the range of archetypal energies needed vary in accord with the phase and astrological considerations of the lunation. Review the Charges:
** This topic also brings to mind the often times multi-opinioned subject of whether one demands or invites the Deities to be present. Although there are occasions where a stronger desire and need for the specific energies and help of a specific deity may be required; and thus a statement in the invocation may be made for them to be present without question on their part, even these types of supplication should be made as invite rather than demand. Even with invite, it is entirely, and rightfully so, within the prerogative of the Deity as to whether they wish to present. By placing the request in the form of an invitation with the potential for connection and blessing, you are more likely to be heard, for it has been done with respect and sincerity.
* Celebration and/or Magickal Working
Please review the WHEEL OF THE YEAR (Lesson Four) for ideas you may wish to include in the components of your celebratory ritual.
Esbats align with the monthly lunar cycles. These are also reflections of the Goddess as she moves through her triune phases of Maiden (New Moon) – Mother (Full Moon) and Crone (Dark Moon). We will discuss the Esbats in more detail in Lesson Nine. If you would like a sample of an Esbat Ritual of Dedication check out:
* Cakes and Ale
The Great Rite
The Great Rite is the union of the God and Goddess as symbolized by the powerful energies of fertility and fecundity. It is magick in its most potent form as it draws from the seed of the phallic God and the catalytic womb of the Great Mother, combining those energies to manifest life-giving energy.
In ritual magick this act may be symbolically carried out in representation of the magickal tools of the athame (phallus/masculine) being submerged into the chalice (womb/feminine). Traditionally this is performed by the High Priest and the High Priestess as God and Goddess (or those members within the ritual who have invoked or aspected the God and Goddess) and accompanied by the statement (or slight variation upon). If the ritual is a solitary one, this may be done by placing the chalice on a flat surface and holding your athame in your hand. In this way you are calling upon the polarities within yourself:
As the chalice is to the woman (High Priestess or Female)
And the athame is to the male (High Priest or Male)
Their union is in perfect Love and perfect Trust (both together)
So Mote It Be!
This signifies within the ritual space that the combined and polarized energies of God and Goddess are working through the magick that has been worked and the union of those energies will be fruitful and blessed.
Another compelling reason for inclusion of physically eating and drinking something is that if sufficient energy has been raised during your ritual, the act of eating and drinking something will align your energies and draw them back into a space of grounding. It is for this reason that there will often be a feast after the ritual so that the return to normal consciousness and grounded connection to the physical can continue the stabilizing process. In our coven work, ale is often apple juice. We do not normally use an alcoholic beverage as everyone’s tolerance is different. If you are doing solitary work and wish to have wine or, as was traditionally used mead (a sweetened honey wine similar to ale). Cakes can be cookies, or to ground the energy more quickly a small piece of dark quality chocolate can be used. Oatcakes, scones, etc. are also other options.
* Dismissal and Thanks
This is the final stage of the ritual. Expressing gratitude to the energies and beings that were present is of the utmost importance. It also sets up a space of gratitude that will cycle and return and extend multifold. Gratitude is one of the most potent of emotions and used in a way of magick creates the container for more opportunities for gratitude to cycle through.
The dismissal is releasing the sacred space that was created and used. The pattern is the reverse of the casting in that you thank and close the energies of the Elemental Gates, beginning and ending back in the East; each in turn and then move again around the circle clockwise (Deosil) drawing back into and through the Athame the blue flame of the circle casting. As you move around the circle again imagine the blue flame of energy thinning and being drawn back down into the earth. Be sure to eat and drink something substantial to allow your energy to ground and center as well.